Dawn of a new age…

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)
by Octavia E. Butler,  Aldrich Barrett (Narrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lilith wakes up into a world of bipeds reminiscent of Cthullu with a touch of octopus biology. The world as she knows it has ended, the Onkali have rescued her and other humans. They intend for her to teach the other humans how to make a fresh start on a recovered Earth, at a price, once she got used to the Onkali. It won’t be easy or free of conflict.

What did I think? 

It was ok. The plot was fairly straight forward. Lilith wakes up to alien surroundings and actual aliens that she perceives as repulsive. She has to get used to her circumstances and work with her captors/rescuers to maybe make it back to Earth. Awakening other humans complicates matters.

I kept wondering about the total lack of consent. The book was published in 1987, when the concept of consent did not really exist. The lack of it bothered me, but considering the publishing date it wasn‘t really an issie/topic at the time. I wonder what I would have thought, if I had read the book back then.

Will I continue the series? 

Unlikely. The story was ok, but did not really engage me. The plot felt too simplistic, there was no real suspense, no great twists or massive surprises. I might change my mind at some point, but right now I think reading the blurbs of the other books will satisfy my curiosity.

Why did I pick up this book?

I‘ve been meaning to read something by Octavia Butler for a while and this seemed to be a good place to start. I might pick up another series written by her or some short stories.

Six degrees, from Scotland in the past to a dystopian England of the future

Welcome to #6Degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.


This month‘s starting book is yet again one I haven‘t read…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, about a 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow. I don‘t want to follow the same trodden path and the amount of books dealing with unhappy childhoods on my shelf is pretty limited, let‘s go with the author‘s last name. Bizarre, but it worked out in the end and my six degrees settled on children, birth and growing pains in different settings…

The Future Is Nigh (Mass Market Paperback) by C. Stuart Hardwick
A collection of previously published short stories of winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. Length varies from 6 to 32 pages. Pretty decent collection. Three really excellent stories, one that didn‘t really do it for me and the rest was ok to fairly good. 4 stars overall.

My favourites: Martin L. Shoemaker, Today I Am Paul: My emotional winner. I want to hug this android so hard. / Marina J. Lostetter, Rats will Run: Great world building, imaginative flora and fauna. / William Ledbetter, Last House, Lost House: Great post-apocalyptic story with a nice twist.

Thinking about short stories, mothers and unhappy childhood led me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Read the titular story, if you have the opportunity.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius…

Ken Liu leads me to Ted Chiang almost without pause. And to another mother and child and what effects their shared history has on the world at large…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Again, look at the titular story, if you can. It was the basis for the SF movie Arrival with Amy Adams in the lead role.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I liked the story and the characters. I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly.

Another books about mothers and children, at least peripherally, is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well. The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it. 

My final book is yet again about children in a fairly horrific, post-apocalyptic setting. And it brings us back to the island we started this journey on. England though, instead if Scotland… The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl with All the Gifts, #1) by M.R. Carey. Here children end up in a very different world.


Fiction By Authors of Color #ReadPOC2021

Ok, my March #ReadPOC challenge was a total fail, aka I didn‘t get to it… what can I say, I was overbooked and struggling a bit to concentrate on my reading commitments. The March prompt was „A Work of Fiction“ and after some deliberation I picked David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

Nigerian God-Punk – a powerful and atmospheric urban fantasy set in Lagos.

New attempt in April! I hope… which brings along the April prompt: Written by a Queer or Trans Author of Color.

And to my surprise, I found two books on the suggested reading lists, that ring a bell:

1) Dawn (Lilith’s Brood, #1) by Octavia E. Butler — this one is on my kindle-unlimited want-to-read list. I will try to read it in April. After the above and all the other stuff. I am an optimist.

In a world devastated by nuclear war with humanity on the edge of extinction, aliens finally make contact. They rescue those humans they can, keeping most survivors in suspended animation and begin the slow process of rehabilitating the planet.

2) The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1) by J.Y. Yang — read in January 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is fantasy novella with a strong chinese flavour. The author identifies as non-binary and the main characters as well, at least until they reach their teenage years…

“Sonami had just turned fifteen, yet still wore the genderfree tunic of a child, their hair cropped to a small square at the top of their head and gathered into a bun.“

It is strange at first, then becomes normal and when eventually gendered pronouns crop up, they seem just as strange. Well done! I wasn‘t sure I would like this, because my track record with fantasy has been poor in the past few years. But once the story picked up speed, I found it hard to put down. The writing and plot were also a lot more accessible than I had expected. I really need to read the companion novellas. Plan B, if I shouldn‘t feel like Octavia Butler or want to read something shorter!

Author‘s website with info about the whole Tensorate series is here

Main Challenge page: https://lonelycryptidmedia.com/2020/1…

Walking uphill…

The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World
by Robert Kirkman,  Charlie Adlard (Illustrator),  Cliff Rathburn (Illustrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Outside, scavenging for food, meeting Jesus… Rick is a little psychotic in this one, at least in the beginning. Something good happens and the ending is very upbeat. Oh boy, the next issue is going to be really horrible, right? Because of you-know-who….

Normally my next comics read would be The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear (Comics), especially now, with Negan on the horizon. But I think I need a breather from The Walking Dead. I watched Alita Battle Angel on TV last night — well, I watched bits of it and missed the ending, because I got distracted. Still, it looked good and it turns out that some of the comic is available on Kindle Unlimited. At least I won‘t have gotten the free KU trial for naught! So, next:

Battle Angel Alita Vol. 1 (Gunnm, #1) by Yukito Kishiro

Or option number 2… I just got the Netgalley of this one:

Dark One by Brandon Sanderson

I finally bit the bullet and re-activated my Adobe ID, got the Adobe Digital Editions App and unpacked this comic there… reading app number 4, me thinks? Argh.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This Week’s Topic: New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020. Create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.)… Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! 

Well, I am done with looking at my reading from 2020 and generally try to use memes to find a more interesting way of posting my backlog to this blog. So, how about new-to-me authors that got 5 stars from me, regardless of the year I read them in (and with reviews that I haven‘t posted here yet…).

  1. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris, read in 2003

Framboise is running a creperie in a small village in rural France. She spent her childhood years during WWII in this village, but nobody knows that. She now lives under another name, to protect a dark secret in her past. One day her nephew and his wife appear at her doorstep, to ask for the use of her name and recipes. When she refuses – to protect her true identity – she quickly realises that they will stop at nothing to get those recipes. But she is not easily defeated. And while she struggles against her nephew, she tells us her story…..
Very good book, recommended! Great storytelling. This, by the way, is the author of “Chocolat“.

2. Married with Zombies (Living with the Dead, #1) by Jesse Petersen, read in 2012

Great fun. Don’t let the zombies get your brains. If you liked the film Zombieland, this is for you. I already read the second book of the series and it was so-so. This time around I liked two main characters much better. Classic plot — outbreat, lots of gore, shooting, biting, brains and running. Don’t expext any deep thoughts.

3. iZombie, Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson (Author),  Mike Allred (Illustrator),  Laura Allred (Colorist),  Todd Klein (Letterer), read in 2018

I really like the artwork. No, I love it. The further I got into this, the more I liked it. I could just stop myself from getting the next volume, while I was still reading this one. I compromised, it’s on my wishlist. It didn‘t help that there were some teasers at the end of this volume. Grrrr.

The characters are spot-on anatomically and consistent, the women (mostly) don‘t look like bimbos, the guys (mostly) look like nerds, I really like the colour work as well… it‘s refreshing.

On top of that there is a good plot with a decent set-up, excellent humour and nice world building somewhere in the middle. I was sucked into the story right away. And I want to continue so much. But first I need to read a ton of other comics… I joined up at comiXology. I am so doomed! Who mentioned this website anyway? You are fired!

Did I mention that I really like the artwork? 5 stars with brains on top.

4. Regeneration (Regeneration, #1) by Pat Barker, read in 1995

The Regeneration Trilogy: I read these books in the late ’90s, after Ghost Road was first published. I was in love with the British war poets of WWI at the time and this fit right in. I don’t remember many details, but these books were great reads. Very athmospheric, accessible and captivating main characters, I suffered with them every step of the way.

P.S.: The movie is also very good.

5. First Contact (In Her Name: The Last War, #1) by Michael R. Hicks, read in 2012

Great space opera with epic battles. Great pacing, a lot of suspense, very graphic, believable, hard to put down. 

A little confusing at times: The multitude of characters. Sometimes I had to go back a page or so to remind myself from whose perspective the story is being told. But eventually, as I got deeper into the plot, it stopped being an issue.

The characters are well drawn and believable. They are also interesting and not one-dimensional at all. I wouldn’t mind meeting some of them in real life. Even the aliens aren’t just the big, evil monsters, but actual personalities.

6. Three Days to Dead (Dreg City, #1) by Kelly Meding, read in 2010

My reason for choosing this book: The blurp recommending it on the front cover was by Patricia Briggs.

Geat fun! I almost read it in a day. The next one of the series is out already and I will definitely get it. Our heroine is a bounty hunter for all things that go bump in the night. There are shapeshifters, vampires, bridge trolls, the fey…

Nothing really unusual or terribly new, but an entertaining read nonetheless, if you like Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs or Carrie Vaughn.

7. All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) by Martha Wells, read in 2017

This was fun, especially the inner monologue of our Murderbot. 

In just 160 pages the author managed to build a believable world with lively and varied characters and an entertaining plot. This is a winner!

And in their corner all they had was Murderbot, who just wanted everyone to shut up and leave it alone so it could watch the entertainment feed all day.

That could be me on any given day. 

Lots of potential. Is Murderbot a real person or not? The awkwardness of the crew, trying to figure out the correct way of interacting with Murderbot, once they realized that perhaps there is a person behind that opaque faceplate, was pretty priceless. 

And Murderbot’s horror at their attempts to interact! Talking to the humans! And feelings, oh no! 

I tried not to assign a gender to Murderbot. I don’t want to use “it” as a personal pronoun and I am not a fan of “they”. Tricky. I am leaning towards using “him”, not quite sure why. Well, actually, because I pictured him as the android in the Prometheus movies, aka Michael Fassbender.

8. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, read in the early 1980s

I read this in my early teens, several times. And then I read a ton of other horse-related YA novels. I guess it is a phase all reading girls go through, same as playing with Barbie dolls. I loved it very much.

9. Dragonclaw (The Witches of Eileanan, # 1) by Kate Forsyth, read in 2005

Well drawn characters, good story telling, started the second book immediately after putting this one down. The only thing that annoyed me – the characters speak with a Scottish accent. I found that very distracting, but got used to it eventually. I had one of my Scottish work colleagues read out some passages to me one day, which was pretty funny….


Pretty eclectic list of the ages, from my teens to now…

Dystopia, utopia, we still haven‘t learned…

Bannerless (The Bannerless Saga)Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was ok. I was really curious to find out where post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction by Carrie Vaughn of „Kitty and the Midnight Hour“-fame would take me. And it was ok, nothing more, nothing less. Nice world building, nice character development, nice enough.

I liked the society she invented along that Coast Road and the idea of earning banners. Intriguing, even. I liked Enid‘s backstory and watching her becoming the person she is in the story‘s present. But that was about it. The mystery held little interest for me and the solution was meh. I could have put this book down pretty much at any point in the story and wouldn‘t have missed it.

The ending felt a little rushed. I will very likely not continue this series.

Part of this were reminiscent of the Book of the Unnamed Midwife.

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Bloody brilliant!

The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere, #2)The Book of Etta by Meg Elison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Make me. I was made. I made me.

Wow. Just wow. What a great book. Deliverance meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Mad Max meets the end of the world. This deserves every price and award it gets nominated for. I was unsure if I even wanted to read this, after liking Unnamed Midwife so much. But this is probably even better.

The different towns with their varied societies, how fascinating. Awesome world building. There are so many plot bunnies for so many books here. So imaginative.

And horrible. At some points of the story I did not want to continue reading, because I dreaded what was coming next. The plot is like a train crash.

Loved the genderqueerness. Nonjudgmental exploration of what is or can be. Nice. The interactions between Flora and Eddy were great.

And then the so often stupid rules so many of the people in this book feel obliged to follow. Apparently we never learn. We just find new and different ways of screwing it up.

Not sure, what to make of the seemingly supernatural character towards the end. A little too surreal. The only part of the novel that I did not like and that probably has the potential to ruin the book for some people. But, besides that, I thought this book was bloody brilliant. Loved it.

“I give birth to guns. I bleed bullets. I was born to destroy men. Like you.”

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Bloody brilliant!

The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere, #2)The Book of Etta by Meg Elison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Make me. I was made. I made me.

Wow. Just wow. What a great book. Deliverance meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Mad Max meets the end of the world. This deserves every price and award it gets nominated for. I was unsure if I even wanted to read this, after liking Unnamed Midwife so much. But this is probably even better.

The different towns with their varied societies, how fascinating. Awesome world building. There are so many plot bunnies for so many books here. So imaginative.

And horrible. At some points of the story I did not want to continue reading, because I dreaded what was coming next. The plot is like a train crash.

Loved the genderqueerness. Nonjudgmental exploration of what is or can be. Nice. The interactions between Flora and Eddy were great.

And then the so often stupid rules so many of the people in this book feel obliged to follow. Apparently we never learn. We just find new and different ways of screwing it up.

Not sure, what to make of the seemingly supernatural character towards the end. A little too surreal. The only part of the novel that I did not like and that probably has the potential to ruin the book for some people. But, besides that, I thought this book was bloody brilliant. Loved it.

“I give birth to guns. I bleed bullets. I was born to destroy men. Like you.”

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The best yet…

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fabulous. I think I have a new favourite in the Expanse series! 5 stars with a cherry on top. Some slight spoilers ahead…

All about Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, instead of the usual introduction of a new host of characters never to be seen again.

And Bobby is back! And Avasarala, potty-mouth and all.

This is like pure gold for the fans of the series. No distractions of getting to know other characters or slowly diving into a complicated storyline. Just our favourite crew, with their odd-ball humour, trying to survive against mounting odds in a pretty straight forward action adventure story. Don’t get me wrong, the other books with their conspiracies, aliens, universe-spanning plots and amazing world building were fun, too. But this was a great joy ride in its straight forwardness and relative simplicity. And the action, twists and turns kept coming right from the start. I wanted to take breaks between chapters, but I just couldn’t, I was having too much fun…

My favourite stories were those of Amos and Naomi. Holden’s was fun, too, but more of a filler. Alex’s story interested me the least. Each of those plots easily could have been the basis for full novels of their own.

Waiting till next month for my fellow buddy readers to pick up the next book of the series is going to be hard…

*~*~*~*
P.S.: Reading the short story The Churn beforehand is recommended, it gives background on Amos Burton’s youth and characters that are relevant to this story arc.

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It’s the end of the world as we know it…

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1)The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well.

The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it.

From chapter eight onwards there are other POVs strewn in, which I found a little jarring at first. But they give a good overview of the fates of some of the people she meets on her way and of the world in general.

The next book in the series sounds like a pretty different animal, I am not sure if I will pick it up. But this was definitely one of the best books I have read (listend) to this year.

The narrator did a smashing job. The various characters have very distinct voices and she brings a lot of emotions into it. I would definitely get other books narrated by her.

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